Ottawa – February 14, 2022 – As the anti-vaccine convoy rolled into Ottawa, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was released by Canadian Unity, one of the lead groups organizing the convoy, demanding the removal of the prime minister from office. But the only political leader to lose his job was former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole.
After a disappointing result for the Conservatives in last year’s federal election, and despite winning the popular vote, it didn’t take long for Conservative MPs to pin the blame for their poor election results firmly on the shoulders of then-leader Erin O’Toole.
To win the leadership of the party, O’Toole appealed to the social conservative base and hard-right, but to many of them he was viewed as a flip-flop artist when he embraced issues like carbon pricing and banning conversion therapy.
While many conservatives were out joining the convoy occupiers, including O’Toole, Conservative MPs were also lining up their ducks for a vote to oust him, which they won overwhelmingly. The race is now on to elect a new leader.
Meanwhile in Ottawa, and now at many Canadian border crossings, the convoy antagonists have moved well beyond what could be considered peaceful protest to mob rule. In Ottawa, we have witnessed the waving of swastikas, Confederate flags, and other symbols of hate. Citizens have been harassed, verbally abused for wearing masks, and in some cases assaulted. There is also evidence of the desecration of national monuments. As well, evidence has emerged of funding from Trump-loving Republicans south of the border and Trump himself has come out publicly in support of the occupation.
Conservative politicians have embraced the convoy which has been organized by people with links to far-right militias and known hate groups. Groups who have espoused white supremacy, islamophobia, homophobia, and the promotion of violence. Conservative politicians like leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre, and interim party leader Candace Bergen, continue to embrace the protesters.
Delays caused by blockades at the border are costing the Canadian economy $500 million a day, and workers are being laid off as a result. Authorities have demonstrated a double standard when it comes to policing these blockades and the occupation of downtown Ottawa. One can only imagine if these protesters were Black, Indigenous, or People of Colour – assuredly the police would have cracked down a long time ago.
What does this mean for the future of the Conservative Party after O’Toole? Bending themselves over backwards to embrace these occupations and moving even further to the right may appease their socially conservative, anti-vax base, and may even appeal to the likes of former Harper attack dog Poilievre. But in the long run, it is likely a losing electoral strategy.